Fire! A true story.

Back in the heady days of the early 90s, our garden consisted of a patch of grass, two fishponds, a rather large wooden shed and three of the largest sycamore trees I’ve ever seen. The shed had seen many years and the years had not been kind to it. To make room for a new shed [another story] the old one had to go and so did the trees. Barely teenage me was given the job of disposing of these.


Bad idea.

The shed came down quite easily, I only broke one thumb demolishing it. Back from the hospital and a day later I piled up most of the wood and lit it. To say I was not quite prepared for the size and heat output of the fire is a humongous understatement. I ran back to the house, grabbed the hose and spent most of the evening keeping the fences, etc, damp with it. Another fire of similar took care of the rest of the shed and most of the grass in the top part of the garden.

Now for the trees. Have you ever tried to cut down a large tree with a small tenon saw? It takes some doing. It takes the better part of a day. You can’t get all the way though the tree with the saw, so it also leaves the tree in a somewhat unstable state. Stupidly I threw a rope up in the tree and start pulling on it. The tree started to fall. Towards me. Oh shit. A ton of ex tree missed me by about an inch. My Mum’s response to this was something along the lines of “Well it missed you.” A talent for stating the obvious that lady.

Cut forward to the evening of the next day. The tree is chopped up, a fire has been laid out, consisting of lots of tree, a few bits of shed and some newspaper. It was lit, taking warning fro the previous two fires; I kept well back with the hosepipe handy. It smoked a lot. It crackled and spat a lot. It went out. Green wood doesn’t burn. Ever resourceful, I got the jerrycan of petrol. Soak the tree, stand back and throw a match.


*Crackle* *smoke* *spit* *Go out*

Now I did something very silly. I threw on more petrol. The fire wasn’t completely out.


I’m now holding a burning jerrycan of petrol, one of my shoes was burning quite happily and I’m being chased around the garden by a burning stream of petrol issuing from the bottom of the jerrycan. I dunked my foot into the smaller of the two ponds and dropped the jerrycan in as well. Burning petrol floats, so now I had a pond on fire and a tree that was scorched and blackened but very much not on fire. I did the only sensible thing and ran indoors, hoping it would all go away.

The pond eventually burnt itself out; thankfully there were no fish in there. The pond liner had started to burn so bits of tree were used to fill in the hole-that-was-the-pond. The rest of the tree was allowed to dry out over the summer and finally burnt on bonfire night.

The other two trees remained in existence for some more years, until the new neighbours moved in and helped cut them down. I gave my assistance in burning them. I steered clear of the petrol this time.

The joys of trying to publish a scientific paper…

So, you’ve got some decent results at last and want to let the world know? Then you want to publish a paper.

You write it, submit it to the journal, they send it to 2 or more referees who being conscientious professionals, read it and report back promptly. Corrections are made and the process is repeated until the paper is either accepted or rejected.

Or, you get this:

Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Automated status enquiry

Reference number: 1xxxxx Surname: tL

This service enables authors to track the current status and progress of their article. If you have any questions, please contact the Editorial Office at the usual address,

However please note that the Office is not able to give details of referees’ recommendations until a final decision has been taken.

Non-lithographic method to form ordered arrays of silicon pillars and macropores

3 Nov 2004————Referee reminded
26 Oct 2004———–Referee reminded
21 Oct 2004———–Referee report received
7 Oct 2004————-Referee did not report
7 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
5 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
5 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
8 Sep 2004————New submission received and acknowledged.

Where the referees don’t even reply to the journal, and you are left wondering what is going on two months after you submitted.

In December we got a list of corrections to make, nothing major. These were accepted and we finally got confirmation that we would be published earlier this month.

You cannot have too many papers before your PhD viva.

Get some idea of the stuff I do here:
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Some photos.

I work in a surface science lab. My work involves blowing up and etching lots of silicon; the results can look quite good. Some of my favourite images are now here:


I really must get around to tidying up the CSS for this site and ditching the default scheme for something else. I seem to lack inspiration, arsedness and tea at the moment, at least one of those is easy to fix.